Friday, 10 October 2014

Love Your Libraries

A school librarian told me recently that she spent most of her budget on getting authors or speakers in to promote reading. "Why buy hundreds of new books just to have them sit on the shelves untouched?" And so she carefully balances her finances between promotion and stock.

In an ideal world, she'd have the budget for both but we don't live in an ideal world.

If she'd said, "Nobody reads so I'm spending all my budget on encouraging readers, oh and I'm selling all my books to pay for it," I'd have thought she was crazy.

And yet that's what's happening in Liverpool. The council is trying to make Liverpool a City of Readers whilst closing 11 libraries.

If my librarian analogy isn't to your taste how about a company that creates demand and restricts supply at the same time? Is that an good businessmodel? Not good if your aim is to get as many people through your shop door as possible.

I think libraries are important because they started me reading again when I was a teenager. I wouldn't be a writer now if it weren't for libraries, that much is certain.

As a parent, I can remember the time when my children were toddlers. We weren'tpoverty-stricken  by any stretch of the imagination but neither were we wealthy. My wife was working purely to pay for childcare, keeping her job 'open' for when the children were older and finances became easier. My wages covered the mortgage and household bills. In that environment, there was no way we could have bought the number of picture books, board books and story books our children devoured as they grew up. Libraries helped our children develop imagination and intelligence.

As an author, I go into many libraries up and down the country. I've yet to see an empty one.

Authors Cathy Cassidy and Alan Gibbons have drawn up a petition to save the libraries ear-marked for closure. You can sign it by contacting Alan at mygibbo@gmail.com. Or you could write a letter to Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson. 

I don't believe for a second that anyone at Liverpool Council really wants to close those libraries but we're asking them to find another way.